Posted by psgels on 27 September 2009 with categories: Anime Reviews



I’m not a big fan of moe, but that doesn’t mean that I don’t give these types of series a chance. I’ve been proven wrong often enough times about these types of shows, and there are plenty of series that may look overly chichéd and stereotypical on the outside, yet turn out to be surprising gems on the inside. I was hoping Saki to be the same, and for a while it indeed looked like this was the case, but in the end it unfortunately ended up too much stuck in its own clichés and stereotypes to really develop into something worthwhile.

There are just too many fundamental problems with this series. This series is about Mah-Jong. In preparation for this series, you can clearly see that the creators read through all of the rules of Mah-Jong, they looked up all of the major strategies that can be used to win, but on the other hand it also becomes so obvious that they’ve never actually sat down to play a game, in order to get the feeling of how a game normally progresses.

And so, the matches in this series aren’t decided by strategy, but instead by pure luck. Matches basically revolve around who can pull the biggest Deus ex Machina near the end of every match. These magical powers enable the characters to cheat in all sorts of ways, like becoming invisible, getting extra luck when the rounds are arranged in a particular way, and even blatantly giving all of your opponent crappy hands so that you can do whatever you please. The creators don’t even make use of this. The matches all end in the most predictable ways, with no attempt whatsoever to spice them up beyond their original set-up (which is just a courtesy of the manga it’s based on anyway).

This would have all been forgiven if the characters made up for it. Unfortunately, there too it ultimately disappoints. This series has about thirty named characters, and nearly all of them just end up being one-dimensional clichés and stereotypes, with the few attempts that are made to develop them being the most predictable and clichéd attempts ever, so that doesn’t really help either.

In the end, there are just three characters that actually resemble characters and don’t exist based on their exaggerated quirks, and those are just a bunch of minor side-characters. They definitely manage to spice up the series when they’re in the focus, but they’re just too overshadowed by the lead characters, Saki and Nodoka who form one of the most obvious lesbian pairings I have ever seen. There’s nothing subtle about their romance at all. It’s just a constant onslaught of blushing and strange looks when these two are near each other.

But by far the worst character in this series has to be the only boy in the entire series. This guy is so incredibly obnoxious that he makes every scene he’s in a pain to sit through. His endless fantasies about Nodoka’s bosom just get worse and worse as time goes by, and overall he remains an utterly pointless character. There’s no reason whatsoever to have him in this series!

I recently (read: half an hour ago) realized that this series is quite similar to Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou: both series start out with a flawed premise of lots and lots of moe, seemingly stereotypical characters, magic and huge boobs. And that’s all the more of a shame that YWGM did end up creating something enjoyable with a tongue-in-the-cheek execution and fun chemistry, while Saki kept hanging with a bland and unimaginative execution that always picks the most predictable option to go forward. With one of the most obnoxious soundtracks of the season (I’m not the biggest fan of J-Pop, and it’s music like that that’s exactly the reason why!), it fails to move beyond mediocrity.

Storytelling: 7/10
Characters: 7/10
Production-Values: 7/10
Setting: 7/10

31 Responses

  1. plickity says:

    trolled

  2. Aldo-Naris(a) says:

    LOL Wut ?? You give 80 to Yokuwakaru, almost the same that to Eden of the East, but give a 62 to Saki ? And i think that every episode you see serves to flesh out the characters. No, seriously, it almost seems like there is not a single bad episode for you. And out of the blue, 62 to Saki. I’m not a fan of this, but it was better that Shangrila. Meh, opinions, to each its won.

  3. kode-dekka says:

    “To each his own” But I have to agree with you Aldo, at least Saki made sense.

  4. Zodiac Casino says:

    I want to know why Saki’s knees were red the entire series. Then again, i may already know that answer…

  5. d says:

    There’s no reason whatsoever to have him in this series!

    What? Don’t be such a hater! He does the errands, gets the tacos, and plays mahjong. You are just jealous because he is surrounded by girls and you are not. xD

  6. zaeris says:

    In general I think I understand, while I won’t outright say it does enforce the idea you came into the series expecting something else but it was never provided. I wouldn’t really fault the show as evident it’s a more of a pseudo Dragonball version of mahjong anime rather than a normal mahjong anime. With that said I didn’t believe the show wanted a to show viewers a normal game of mahjong but rather something fun equivalent to popular shounen series with flashy effects and power level.

  7. Sniperk says:

    Agreed with Zaeris.
    Personally, I came to watch the show hoping for absolutely nothing.

    It was about Mahjong.
    It was being animated by Gonzo.
    It was about lesbians.

    Nothing good seemed that could come out of it.
    But in the end, I just couldn’t wait every new episode.

    It has it’s charms, and not pretending to be something deep, or world changing, is one of them. It’s just a brainless shounen anime about flashy moves. Only in a mahjong table, instead of the monster around the corner.

  8. Howling-kun says:

    Yet, I had more fun with Saki than any other anime these past two seasons. More than ALL of them.

    It was stated this was a fanservice moe show from the very start and if you’re unpleased with this kind of Deus ex Machina (absolutely a standard in every game anime/manga), you won’t be enjoying Akagi either. In fact, you’ll hate Akagi’s one-dimensional characters even more.
    How’s Saki (Saki) different from Shion (Shion on Ou)? Shion did stuff just as glorious, but instead of labeled as “godly luck”, her skill was “levels to her opponent” and BOTH “controlled the game flow”.
    (Don’t get me wrong, I liked Shion much more too – character-wise the show is much better)
    Also, you clearly brought down the production values because you LOATHE J-Pop. Saki featured an excellent use of CG, the soundtrack is extremely over-the-top, making it as tense and over-blown as TTGL (of course, in it’s own scale), not to mentioned characters mostly look gorgeous and are all pretty sympathetic (only Tacos and the guy were kind of annoying sometimes). This is truthfully belongs in the Top Tier of fanservice shows for me, as it manages to deliver solid entertainment with more than T&A. I don’t know if you play Mahjong, but I almost had a heart attack every Rinshan Kaihou – even if they were predictable and “cheated” for Saki.

    Good job Gonzo, I think I’ll buy the DVDs for the gorgeous hug pillow that comes for free.

    • TryAgain says:

      You can replicate some of Akagi tactics in real life. Most of his analyzing of people move can be done and I saw happen before in my online play against others.
      You know very little about Mahjong if you actually compare them as both the same level as dues ex machina. Please don’t talk shit about shows you know nothing about.Like a fool that talks about go swordsmanship of killing through a show about kendo.

  9. Zodiac Casino says:

    I actually started playing mahjong because of this show, mostly in part to help understand how it all worked. And I think for what it was, it was a quite entertaining show. Especially since i was watching more of the heavy-content shows at the same time.

    And why were Saki’s knees always red? Or do i already know the answer to that?

  10. Reltair says:

    When I first saw Saki, I could see a lot of potential in the series and looked forward to its development. But I was somewhat disappointed in the direction that it took (increasingly crazy win methods akin to Prince of Tennis style).

    It was still entertaining to watch though, so I would rate it higher than a 62.

  11. kalandra says:

    Put it in this perspective :

    Assuming neither series gets a second,

    10 years later, who would still remember Saki? 5 years from now, who would still recommend Saki to their friends?

    Now try the same question for Shangri La. I am sure Shangri La gets a better chance.

    Sure, Saki is entertaining, but its nothing more then fluff produced every season.

    • PVCPipe says:

      It’s 2013 now. Between Saki and Shangri La, I’m pretty sure Saki is more remembered than Shangri La. Saki is still talk more than Shangri La. Have you seen Saki dominance in Saimoe Japan 2012?

  12. zaeris says:

    If it was entertaining and enjoyable why would you not recommend it to someone else?

    I just felt psgel had to wrong reason for watching this series. At a whole a comparison between this and Shion no ou seem quite drastic, while the premise of mahjong are similar there are clear distinct style used and the emphasis are different in both shows. Arguably this is a moe infested fluff show but a good one at that as it offers mores using the term moeru.

    I will just add this in, while saki sported a large cast I believe that everyone in this show was well fleshed out in the 25 episodes as manageable as possible. Every school got to have their own screen time and back story. While it is not much it did get a lot of people into learning mahjong.

  13. juu says:

    I thought the episodes that still follow the manga are quite enjoyable (though nothing great), while the anime-original episodes (the individual tournament) was a lot weaker and rather boring. Leaves a bad last impression for me…

  14. psgels psgels says:

    Like I said, I would not have minded the screwed game mechanics if the characters were enjoyable enough (like what I experienced with Yoku Wakaru Gendai Mahou and especially Shion no Ou, which was IMO much better in hiding these deus ex machina), but near the end of the series I was just boringly sitting through the series, hoping for it to get finished as soon as possible. I was actually into the series at one point, but I think that during Saki and Koromo’s match, my suspense of disbelief was completely shattered.

    I was indeed first planning to rate this series higher, but as I started writing this review I couldn’t think of any good reason to warrant it this, based on my own enjoyment. I guess it’s also my expectations that were a bit wrong with this series. But yeah, 65 may be a bit too low…

    Oh, and @howling-kun: one of the reasons why I rated thep roduction-values low was indeed that I didn’t like the soundtrack, but also because unlike you I wasn’t really that enamored by the character-designs. From my view, they were just a bit too exaggerated on the moe part.

  15. Nomus says:

    Totally agreed with review. Why the heck did you rise the rating? Now it looks strange. All review is about how awful this thing is, but in the end it gets 70, witch is quite good. After Shion and Kaiji it looks like an insult.

    And kalandra was right: after Shangri it’s even harder to take gonzocrap seriously.

  16. Perrin4869 says:

    Congratulations on actually being able to finish this… I didn’t even manage to get interested in watching the first episode! Did you truly believe there was any chance in hell this could have been good?

  17. Howling-kun says:

    @kalandra: Well I guess I’ll remember Saki forever. There are are only 3 mahjong anime and I recommend them to everyone I play with.

    @psgels: I don’t blame you, since you aren’t a big fan of moe shows. This is a moefan’s paradise: characters look cute and aren’t mentally handicapped.

  18. Anon says:

    Saki is a good moe show where the moe doesn’t really get in the way of the plot. Even with the moe elements, the majority of the time is spent on Mahjong. K-ON is an example of a bad moe show. The moe gets in the way of the show being about a music club. As a result, there’s no progression. You don’t feel like the characters have improved any or any closer to reaching their goal.

  19. Kalandra says:

    Ack! Why did Saki score got increased? I don’t expect you to bend over from peer pressure.

    Its one thing to think this is a good series, its another to rate it better after complains from the fans.

  20. psgels psgels says:

    Kalandra: it’s also one thing to make mistakes. After thinking back, I realized that I indeed may have been a bit too strict and that there were at least parts that I enjoyed. I didn’t change the rating because of peer pressure, but because of my own ideas. I probably would have come to the same conclusion if nobody complained.

  21. Tk007 says:

    I love anime like Tokyo magnitude 8, Guin saga, Phantom, kemono no souja Erin, etc. But somethimes the mood just isn’t right to watch those anime. That is when anime like Saki or Taishou yakyuu musume comes in.

    Saki has a simple setting. It has no deep plotline. It does not have evildoers or villains behind the scene. You don’t have to get too attached to the characters. It’s simply an anime about a group of people playing mahjong in the most animated way possible. It’s just something you watch, be entertained, and forgot about it later. I’ll have to admit that it has kept me entertained for these past few months and found myself eagerly anticipating the next episode during their qualifying tournaments arc. Overall, I’m satisfied with the show for what it is.

    In the end, the score doesn’t really matter. No matter how high or how low the score is, it has nothing to do with my (or your) enjoyment level.

  22. Kalandra says:

    Call me a fanboy, but I don’t get how you like Saki more then say… Lucky Star.

  23. psgels psgels says:

    I guess it’s the matches in the middle of the series, that at least tried to bring in some interestin characters like the invisible girl (who ironically got more background than the lead characters) and the thief girl. Lucky Star on top of being stereotypical was also repetitive, while Saki at least changed.

  24. wouldgettrolledagain says:

    A lower score than Gurren Lagan?
    Heh.

  25. Nomus says:

    psgels
    I can understand your reasoning. But won’t it be better to rewrite the review then? Because you said nothing good about the show. “It fails to move beyond mediocrity” and “70” don’t connect.^^

  26. Juni says:

    This had a lot of potential, but it really feels like the mahjong games were stupid and lazy.

    On the bright side, I heard that Legend of Koizumi is getting an anime!

  27. Anonomyous says:

    Its now 2011 and i just rewatched Saki and it was just as fun.

    The ridiculous Koromo match and Koromo’s inner darkness contrasted with her childish ways as well as the silliness of Saki seemingly afraid but actually just wanting to go to the toilet.

    This is a fun series which i would definitely recommend above shangrila.

  28. elior1 says:

    saki will get a second season next year

Leave a Reply

Shoutbox

Name:
Email:
For:  
Mail will not be published
  • Bam
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 01:48 PM)
    @Kaiser: it was a FLEA, and you know what’s weird? That’s strangely taken directly from the tale. The fairytale says “the king grew a flea to the size of a sheep, and then he skinned it” with no additional details. It was an interesting choice to build a whole subplot out of one sentence.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 09:51 AM)
    If i had to pick, its the story with Selma Hayak that was my favourite.
    Also RIP giant ant monster, moe as fuck, you were wept for you adorable fucker lol
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 09:49 AM)
    Tale of tales could have stood to jump around less and perhaps developed itself a bit more. However I found enough imagination here and about all the stories are roughly on par with each other in terms of quality. I liked the creature effects and I’m a sucker for “not so happily ever after” and Macabre/dispelled takes of fairytales because lets face it, the old tales were probably far far away from the disney versions.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 07:59 AM)
    @Kaiser Well hopefully you’ll get back into comedies sometime soon, there’s been some pretty good comedy manga/animes that have come out in the last six years that I’m dying to recommend.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 06:57 AM)
    @Kaiser As Helghast said it’s the best looking show of the season, but the train and fires are probably metaphors for what it’ll inevitably turn into.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 06:55 AM)
    I keep reading it as Caribeneri as in the word for Italian Military police….
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 06:53 AM)
    I think his names Kurusu, but right now he’s the thing thats bothering me about Kabaneri at the moment.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 06:52 AM)
    @Kaiser At first the contrast in Gurashi was interesting, but it’s turned out to be nothing more than a gimmick. I am a Hero probably manages to do the cute/psychedelic-zombie contrast better with the heroine when she was a zombie.
  • Kaiser Eoghan
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 06:51 AM)
    It might be around 4 years now but in that time span I’ve returned to an intolerance I had for schmaltz drama.
  • k-off
    (Sunday, May 1. 2016 06:50 AM)
    @Kaiser To be honest I’m not that impressed by anime visuals anymore, the grittiness/desaturation of everything in Kabaneri is no different than the likes of say, Schwarzesmarken, but of course with a bit more care.

1 · 2 · 3 · 4 · 5 · »

Featured Posts

Flying witch – 04

Flying witch again delivers strong material this week and I actually think this is their best episode so far. Mostly because the 2 parts are well connected this week, and our new character Inuka is so natural and fit in like a glove, in addition they have an absurd and whimsical story to boost. I […]

Mayoiga – 05

We now back to the status quo on Mayoiga this week, as the group who left the village decided to come back, and the cliffhanger happened last week was never explained probably. I will say this upfront: this is not a good episode. We don’t learn much after it ends. We have even longer conversations […]

Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress – 03

                There are no brakes on the Kabaneri of the Iron Fortress train even when it goes for a pit stop to pick up some water and say a prayer for the dead. While my fellow writers firmly believe that Koutetsujou no Kabaneri will disintegrate into a trainwreck […]

Bungou Stray Dogs – 04

Bungou Stray Dogs sure never get tired to showcase more new characters every week, and judging from the OP I’m certain that there are more to come. This week there are 3 more new faces and each of them is over the top in their own ways, but that turns out to be for good […]

Joker Game – 04

I am starting to get a little worried about Joker Game. After a very strong start it’s gone down in quality once it revealed it’s episodic format. This episode marks the lowest point of the series so far though I still don’t think of it as bad. Rather than focus on a member of the […]

Re:Zero -Starting Life in Another World – 04

Despite nearly dying our protagonist wakes up out of the loop and now in the mansion of a strange clown like fellow with twin maids. The mansion looks to be Emilia’s home and we not look to be in a new time loop as evidenced by the last scene where it appears that Subaru was […]

Kiznaiver – 03

So this episode was an introduction to our new seventh Kiznaiver who looks to be a roguish shut in with a pendent for self harm. Adding a masochist to a group that shares pain is certainly a dilemma but I wonder just how they plan to make use of him in the plot. Considering that […]

Flying witch – 03

Flying witch has another solid episode this week. Flying week’s formula seems to be half of Makoto the witch getting to know an everyday country life, and other half of Makoto’s witchcrafts and meeting people from that magic world. All of these stories take place mostly in a single location as well, this time are […]

Mayoiga – 04

It’s until this week that I just noticed the rather strange part of the OP of Mayoiga, the sequence was shown in the point of view of Masaki. It starts with her, then introducing the cast and finally ends with her standing alone in the lost village. But when I think about that, only in […]

Latest Reviews

Schwarzesmarken – 65/100

Schwarzesmarken is a strange title in that it has a setting with fantastic potential yet the story is dampened by a rushed pacing and Missing characterisation. Despite this there are signs of a greater story under the hood and at times that story can shine despite haphazard adaption. The Stasi make for a great villain […]

Boku dake ga Inai Machi – 85/100

In the large reservoir of anime it is surprising just how few titles focus on the concept of time travel. There are of course titles which feature time travel but few that make it the core focus. So here we have Boku Machi or ERASED, a tale about a mangaka time traveling to his childhood […]

Gangsta. – 58/100

Gangsta is an anime with a lot of things going for it. A mature cast, gritty themes, a interesting setting and a trio of main characters who can carry the show. However due to a number of factors it never quite reached its potential. The main trio of characters are unconventional and quite interesting with […]

Gakkou Gurashi! – 80/100

Gakkou is one with a good facade as promotional material would have you believe it was some dime a dozen moe slice of life. I was one who wasn’t fooled by the cute cuddly exterior but I was truly surprised with just how good this anime ended up being. Gakkou is one of those rare […]

Little Witch Academia The Enchanted Parade – 81/100

I wonder when it was that a film being childish became a flaw. As a medium grows it takes steps to aim to mature itself and seek a more intellectual level of presenting entertainment. Animation did it as Anime aimed to explore terrontry that cartoons refuse to explore and video games only recently broke away […]

Fate/Stay Night Unlimited Bladeworks Review – 85/100

For a long time now this adaption has been the dreams of many a Fate fan with many believing it would never come to pass, but now that it is here is it everything that we dreamed? Short answer to this is no, long answer is nearly. I feel this show will have many divided […]

Shirobako Review – 80/100

When you see a harem anime and sigh as the breasts of the female lead jiggle with every step and wind that can flip a skirt it’s easy to forget that somewhere in Japan a group of people worked hard to get that jiggle right and draw each frame of animation. The hardships of the […]

Clipboard06

Nerawareta Gakuen Review – 84/100

Let me talk a bit about Ryousuke Nakamura. For a long time, this guy was my hero. He started off as an assistant director to Monster, in my opinion a big reason why that series got such a ridiculously solid adaptation, and then in 2008 he came with the groundbreaking Mouryou no Hako. No TV-series […]

Clipboard03

Kick Heart

Okay, so I didn’t want to exit 2013 without having seen Masaaki Yuasa’s Kick Heart. It’s only twelve minutes anyway, and I consider him to be one of the best anime directors out there. The story here is pretty silly and mostly serves as a backdrop, so I mostly want to talk about the nature […]